Ahead of Stand Atlantic releasing their bold, brilliant second album 'Pink Elephant', vocalist Bonnie Fraser's expectations couldn't be lower. "I'm super negative, and it's my downfall," she says, Zooming from home. "I thought no one was going to care ‘cos no one was buzzing about going to a live show. What is the fucking point of releasing it?"
From the moment they released their debut EP of demos in 2013, Stand Atlantic have been on the road. "When we're touring, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that the live show is the only thing that matters," Bonnie tells us. With a crowd of people singing their words back at them, as well as new countries and bigger venues giving the band a tangible sense of growth, it's no surprise the band have spent the last few years chasing that excitement. But with a pandemic putting all that on hold, Bonnie has been reminded that there's "more to music than just playing shows, you dickhead."
You can't really regret releasing an album in the middle of a pandemic, according to Bonnie. "I'd regret not doing it way more." Not only did it stop the band getting bored of the tracks before they'd even been released, but fans "seemed to appreciate the fact we were releasing stuff during COVID. It was nice to know that we were brightening their days in some kind of way." Even if the band had to sit and read the comments rather than playing the songs live. "Now though, we're onto the next thing."
What that next thing is, is anyone's guess. Bonnie refuses to give anything away, letting her Zoom background of a legless lizard (which is different to a snake, apparently) answer the question in a scaly silence. "We've been writing quite a bit. Usually, we're forced into putting writing in our schedule, so if we hadn't done any writing, it would be real embarrassing. We've been able to play around a lot which is cool. Whether or not we release those tracks is a different matter."
After 'Pink Elephant' challenged every expectation around the band, their future is wide open. "I don't know if it's just because we're pussies, but we don't want to do something completely different next. We don't want to go too overboard."
Debut album 'Skinny Dipping' was an emotional pop-punk record that dealt with heartache, confusion and depression with a biting honesty. "It was easy to lump us into a certain scene," Bonnie says, and all too often, they'd get comparisons to Tonight Alive and Paramore. "Literally, you just have to have tits and be in a band, and you'll get compared to them. It's so dumb." They wanted to break out of the world of pop-punk because, "it just doesn't really represent the music that we listen to."
"Pop-punk can definitely be seen as a 40-year-old man reminiscing about his past, but it is a cool genre for the bands that do it right. We all grew up listening to it, and we still dabble in it every now. We just wanted to make sure we could branch out and not be seen as a one-trick pony."
'Pink Elephant' draws influence from emo rap, punk, pop and arena rock and was the result of the band wanting to show "there are actually no rules. We can incorporate the music that we like into the music that we play. It doesn't have to tick any boxes." The Aussie mob want to do "so many things", and 'Pink Elephant' sees them kicking open countless doors. "I was super nervous because I didn't know how people were gonna react. It wasn't a huge leap of faith, it's not like we made a heavy metal album or anything, but we had to push the envelope. It's important to remember the world is literally your oyster. I don't want to be cliché, but it is, so take it by the horns and do what you want."
Bonnie has always felt like she's got something to prove to people. "I hate being predictable. I definitely don't want to be put in a box, I just want to be myself." There have been countless times where the band have been told they can't do something because of the sort of band they are but never again. "Fuck you. We don't have to do what people expect of us."
Going beyond the heartbroken misery of 'Skinny Dipping', it's not just the music that's changed on 'Pink Elephant'. "I don't want to just keep writing the same things over and over and over. I want to push the boundaries for myself." Lyrically the record talks about toxic relationships ('Blurry'), substance abuse ('Jurassic Park') and standing up for yourself ('Shh!'). "Even if I am shitting myself about being open to the world, I feel like the good that that can do is so much more worthwhile than you not releasing it because you're scared. I just feel like that's a bit selfish." She's realised, "you don't have to write about relationships all the time. You don't have to write about being sad all the time. It takes the pressure off of having to write about every inch of your heart."
'Pink Elephant' is still painfully honest. "We just never want to be generic. We want to make sure all our songs are authentic in some way, even if I'm singing about wanting to eat someone's skin" - like she does on 'Evilago'. Elsewhere Bonnie talks about the guilt she felt about feeling depressed when there were so many good things going on in her life ('Silk & Satin') and 'Hate Me (Sometimes)' sees her wishing she sometimes still felt self-loathing, just ‘cos it would make writing easier. "When you are in the pits, you know that at the very least, you can write about it. But when you're happy, then you've got to really think about all the things you can write about. That new challenge made me fall in love with songwriting again."
Despite the reaction to 'Pink Elephant' and Stand Atlantic finally be able to play the record live with a couple of sit-down socially-distanced shows at Sydney's Crow Bar, Bonnie's 2020 has been "fucking shit," she says. "So much crap has happened, not just in music but in my personal life as well. What else can you say, it's not been a great year."
Next year could be better. "We have tours booked, and we have a plan for when certain things are going to be released. But we can't do anything until we know what the fuck is going on. We have shit ready, but just like everyone else, we have to wait for now." Whatever's going on with the state of the world, Stand Atlantic have shown they're a band who'll do whatever they want. "We've laid the foundations for us to do something more creative next time around. With 2020, you have the attitude of fuck it, what is more important in life; Is it sticking to your genre or is it doing whatever the fuck you want?"
Taken from the December 2020 / January 2021 issue of Upset, out now.
Featuring... The Smashing Pumpkins, Poppy, All Time Low, Creeper and more.